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Monday, 12 December 2011


Dinosaur Island (1994)

Directed by low budget schlockmeisters Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski.

Produced by Roger Corman.

Stars Michelle Bauer (and lots of other people who aren't as mammarable).

*Some Jurassic spoilers below - like you care about the plot anyway!*

Shipwrecked soldiers on a tropical island find big-bosomed bikini-clad cavegirls who give ugly fat men (and I mean that in a 'spirit the movie was made in' kind of way) a chance to find love and be 'real men' by defeating stop motion dinosaurs until the final few reels when they fight the much more fun fibreglass-moulded 'saurs - and a small baby T-Rex puppet that giggles non-stop at them.

This is a film that starts off dire, gets a bit better and ends up finishing on something of a high - perhaps by sucking the viewer up into the film's same weird wavelength. Or because - if a film starts off dire, there's probably no way to go but up.

The 'actual-sized' T-Rex (actually more like T-Rex's mini-me) is rather good, I want one in my bedroom. It's the same Mr T.Rex that appears in Corman's Jurassic Park rip-off; Carnosaur (1993). It also appeared in the Tom Hanks movie The Da Vinci code. OK, lied about the last one!

There are some funny lines in the movie, such as (upon standing beside a giant dino egg), one soldier commenting: "My God! Think of the cholesterol". But most lines fall flat. As the film goes on, the actors seem to realise that the film should be played for outright laughs (either real or non-existent) and not pretend to be taking any of this too seriously. The film relaxes - and is all the better for it! "Let's have fun in this pile of crap," the actors scream. Probably. Or perhaps they just get happier when the nubile cavegirls walk on set. Who can blame them? I bet there were some fun after-filming parties on this one!

There's a standout fun bit; a monster in the cave that gets pushed ferociously (and I use the term loosely) at the cast - on shaky supermarket trolley wheels, or so it seems. It's also shaped like one of those jelly wobbly monsters you could place on your fingers as a kid and waggle them around to make the wibbly arms wave. The cave monster - dammit - is brilliant! It only has a few minutes of screen time, and personally I thought its role could have been extended. Perhaps to become an ally. Perhaps to direct the thing! It was cute, and not 'stop motion' which is good - more likely made up of something that the props department probably found behind the bike sheds or in the cave, left there by the previous film crew working on the 1953 classic, Robot Monster, in which a robot monster is actually a man in a gorilla suit wearing a diver's helmet and being followed around by a bubble blowing machine.

Robot Monster has a triceratops in it too, just like Dinosaur Island has one (hey - what do you mean you think that's a plot spoiler, check the title of this thing!). I think the triceratops in Dinosaur Island is called 'The Great One' for most of the movie, until halfway through, when the film-makers decide that T-Rex is a better 'Great One' and kill triceratops off quickly, after calling it the 'actually not the proper great one' or something.


They are absolutely right - triceratops is a very jerky and fairly crap prop. T-Rex though, the lifesize version, actually looks like a fun kind of prop to play with - especially when its teeth sink fairly convincingly (sic) into an actress's arm as she pretends fairly convincingly to scream. Actually really convincingly scream, as the stunt prop really does seem to bite down on her arm a little too hard. Well, props that size are hard to control - "sorry love, no time for lawyers, it's a wrap!"

All this talk of 'stop motion' versions of monsters as opposed to the 'life-sized prop' versions of the same sort is getting a bit confusing. But then - you should see the movie. It's a whole bit more than a bit confusing all the way through.There was a bit of romance between one wisecracking soldier (on his way to a court-martial but being spared from that due to the shipwreck and dinosaurs problem along the way) and a cavegirl without a bikini. But the larger proportioned soldier geek gets the hottest cavegirl - a quite show-stopping Michelle Bauer, veteran of movies such as this. The wisecracking one gets to have the longest sex scene while the geeky one gets to fondle Michelle Bauer's boobs. Citizen Kane this ain't!

If you take the film as something you might dream about after picking mushrooms in a field wearing a blindfold, cooking them up, and eating them, only to find yourself in wibble wobble land with stop motion, slightly camp, dinosaurs or real life sized dinosaurs straight out of a nearby dinosaur theme park in some state of decline - then you will love this movie even more as a result, I'd venture. There's also a giant (wait for it!) pterodactyl (oh yeah!) that the soldiers try to capture to take back to bikini cavegirl camp, only to miss when throwing the net, which doesn't seem to work on stop motion puppets as much as it would on a real pterodactyl. It just sort of vanishes into the back projection. Instead they capture a couple of local turtles to dish up to the girls. "Do you like the pterodactyl meat" asked smartass soldier guy, as he joins the ladies at dinner. "It tastes a bit odd" replies cavegirl, "and tastes like turtle." Brilliant!

Near the end of the movie a baby T-Rex (or possibly the big T-Rex shot out of scale) leans over rocks and giggles at the copulating soldiers, before running off into the bushes, still giggling. It's not clear why this creature is in the movie, except it could just be Roger Corman himself making a cameo and admiring his executive produced work. Or a critic sneaking around the set.

At the end of the movie, the closing shot is on baby dino giggling. Instead of getting another angry dino out for revenge we get Mr Gigglebox. That pretty much puts the stoppers on a sequel. But - despite the failings of cast, writers and special effects crew at times, this film is the kind of bad movie you just kind of fall in love with and before you know it - you're having fun and want more!

Any movie that has a soldier facing a scantily clad cavegirl, jaw dropping, as the soldier gets ready to 'make out' and the cavegirl commenting "It's the great one.." as she spots the big dinosaur behind the man's back, only for the soldier to comment back: "I haven't even got it out yet" - kind of deserves a bit of love in return.

The end credits credit just about everyone, including veteran actor David Carradine, who it seems allowed the cavegirl ranch to be built on a bit of his ranch. Sounds a fair deal to me! Jim Wynorski, co-director of Dinosaur Island also gave us The Hills Have Thighs, The Da Vinci Coed, and Ghoulies IV. That last sentence tells you just about all you need to know and perhaps should have been the one-lined review needed for Dinosaur Island, instead of all the rest I came out with. My first Wynorski purchase was also his first; 1985's The Lost Empire. I think it was a lot like Dinosaur Island, just made a decade earlier. It's good to know that the film world has directors like Wynsorski in it, if only to put a rubber spanner in the works and annoy 98% of film audiences and critics alike.

words: mark gordon palmer

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